Problems with Bennet Senior Housing were raised more than a year ago in this Manchester Review Blog. There were concerns that the investment corporation owed over $420,000 in back rent to the Town, lack of upkeep, deferral of needed capital improvements, and a lack of response to tenant complaints. The Bennet Housing Corporation, a Commission-like group of citizens appointed by the Board of Directors for oversight of the investment corporation, had not met in several years.
In the past year the Board of Directors actively investigated the issues and re-activated the Bennet Housing Corporation which has been meeting quarterly. The Vesta Corporation, which manages the project, developed a Capital Improvement Plan to address the building needs and is moving forward on attempts to refinance the mortgage in order to raise funds for the capital improvements. They say if all goes well, improvements will start this summer or the fall. IF they get the refinancing. If not, it’s “Houston, we have a problem!”
Last year, in anticipation of imminent capital improvements, the Bennet Housing Corporation and tenants agreed that a modest rent increase was warranted. The increase is proposed to go into effect March 1 even though tenants have lease agreements at existing rates through the Fall and no major improvements have been made yet. The Vesta Corporation still owes about $350,000 to the Town in back rent, down from over $420,000 more than a year ago, but still a pretty hefty amount. Town sources say the debt will be paid off upon refinancing.
The good news is that the BOD and the Bennet Housing Corporation made a lot of progress in the past year. The Corporation is meeting regularly. Tenant participation at the meetings has been strong - 14 of 32 apartments were represented at a recent meeting - and some apartments have been refurbished.
The bad news is that so far it’s been mostly talk, paper promises and a rent increase, but very slow action from Vesta Corporation (e.g. the old hallway carpets - scheduled to be replaced in 2008 - remain) and they still owe a bunch of money to the Town. Does it really take over a year to get refinancing?
Thankfully we have the reinvigorated Bennet Housing Corporation and the BOD riding herd on the investment company - which evidently needs a vigilant watchdog because they don’t seem to move very quickly. Members of the Bennet Housing Corporation are President Tom Robinson, John Mercier, Paul Rubin, Dave Golas, Jan Johnson and tenant representative Sarah Melquist. Town Attorney Tim O’Neil is actively involved with the Corporation also.
Progress is being made. We’ll keep you posted.